Posted by: Jim E | January 25, 2012

A Coopers Hawk, An American Crow, Automobiles…And Gray Squirrels…Not A Good Mix…

We have always watched nature all around us…there is a symmetry to nature…a certain harmony to it…balance and proportion…and I think most can see that everyday…Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”…all of nature is just that…it is amazing…whether it is the rain that is falling today or the sunshine we had yesterday…all of it is full of wonder…the fact that it is the end of January and we are seeing flowering bushes and buds on the trees and plants…I find that amazing…if we were in Minnesota that would be a long way off…crocus and daffodils are not far away here…so I am in awe of the wonders of nature…

I saw something a few days ago that I had never seen before…gray squirrels are all over the country, I believe…at least east of the Rockies…they are seen by some as a nuisance rodent, by others a cute, quirky animal in everyone’s backyard…some like to feed them, others try everything in their arsenal to keep them from their bird feeders…we have been there…squirrels breed twice a year and the litters can be from 2-8 young in each litter…so there can be “lots” of squirrels around if there is enough food to be found…and when so many, including us, have bird feeders…then the squirrels will never go hungry…

There are lots of gray squirrels here in Arkansas…they seem to be a bit, well, lacking in defense against cars…I see them all over as  “roadkill”…I’ll say, “Another one bit the dust.”…as we pass by another dead squirrel on the road…personally I have never hit one though I wouldn’t swerve out of the way, or run off the road, or into another car…or slam on my brakes…you get my drift here…in other words I don’t want to hit one but…the odd thing is though, the squirrels, when they get on the road in front of you, have a tough time deciding what to do…do I go straight across…do I go back…do I dart back and forth…do I run straight down the center line…just what do I do???...I have decided they all have a death wish…or they are just stupid…I don’t know…but they do all those things…and all the while their tail is up in the air moving around like they are challenging the car or something…”Just get across the road will you.”…so many of them don’t make it…

Okay, let me get back to the story of what I saw some days ago…no camera shot or video but let me try to describe it…(first, let me say, there is not a straight road in Little Rock, Arkansas…its either turning right or left…up or down…or right or left AND up and down…the road never is straight for more that a few seconds as you are moving…okay, enough of that…but it will give you an idea why I couldn’t get a picture even if I had a camera)…back to the story…as I was driving home and passing a roadkill or two…(just joking)…

Anyway, I noticed a squirrel on the road ahead of me…it had been hit already…but was alive yet…moving a leg and tail…but unable to move…that would be bad enough but a crow was standing over it…pecking at the squirrel’s head and eyes…I had never seen a crow attacking roadkill, before it was roadkill…it kind of grossed me out…but as I went by the crow took off…I should have run over the squirrel to put it out of its misery…but didn’t…looked back and saw the crow come back and take up his gruesome task again as I went down the road…I thought, this too is part of nature…crows eat carrion, its part of a plan of cleaning up dead things, I guess…that’s why we don’t see hundreds of birds and other animals that have died, all around us…even turkey vultures wait until the animal dies before it closes in…so I had not seen a crow do that before…it was a surprise and informative at the same time…

A few years ago as I was looking out at our backyard…this was in Minnesota before we moved to Arkansas…so this was about 2005 or so…Jeremy had a number of bird feeders in the back yard…we had lots of different kinds of birds at different times of the year…the feeders were different too…suet, mixed grain, black sunflower seeds, thistle seed and on and on…it attracted many kinds of birds, so it also attracted different kinds of predators…hawks, owls, cats, etc…and this is hard for some birders to understand or handle…that animals eat other animals…and if you attract birds you will see birds being seen as a food source…also you will attract squirrels for the seeds that you feed the birds…we also had a number of bushes, evergreen and deciduous trees in the yard…all are wonderful for birds, because they can find shelter and protection there…

Over the years we saw the results of hawks who swooped in and got birds at the feeders…its one of the truths of birding…you feed and attract them and you also provide a place for predators to get fed…we found feathers from a recent kill and there were a few times we saw a hawk on a railing or log in our backyard feeding on a bird…the type of hawk we had visit from time to time was a Cooper’s hawk…they are a beautiful bird…about 14″-20″ tall with a two foot wing span…short round wings and a long rounded tail…this allows them to fly through trees and swoop in and out of tight places…they feed mostly on small birds and mammals…they will pursue after birds between trees and even run along the ground in its pursuit…with a few short flaps of its wings and long glide it surprises its prey…but this time it was different…it was after a gray squirrel…

As I watched out the window…I noticed all the birds were gone (they seem to know when a hawk is around, I don’t always know how)…but the squirrel in the platform feeder didn’t get the message…too hungry I guess…but all the sudden in swooped the Cooper’s hawk, big as you please…the squirrel all the sudden saw his precarious situation and jumped off the feeder…and right into the Colorado spruce…right there in the picture…to the left of the feeder…then the fun started…I couldn’t believe it!!!…the squirrel made it to the tree…and I thought it was over…but the Cooper’s thought differently…and I had never seen this before either…the hawk landed on the tree and went inside after the squirrel…the squirrel went up the tree on the inside branches…and the hawk followed…he used his wings to climb…the squirrel sat still…and so did the hawk…as soon as the squirrel moved…the hawk went after him…this went on for 3 or 4 minutes…back and forth…up and down…I wanted to see this videoed but couldn’t take my eyes off it…finally the squirrel left the tree and ran to another…the hawk finally gave up the search…the squirrel was too quick and got away and was hiding in another tree and “laying low”…he was not moving…so the hawk pulled himself together…and took off for better hunting…it was something to see…again, surprising and yet informative about something I did not know and had never seen…

Nature…such beauty, so surprising and informative…we need to stay awake for it…alert…noticing things that go by us everyday, noticed or not…I choose to notice…to mark it down in my mind…to remember…well, heavens…I got to share it with you…what could be better…have a great week…

 

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Responses

  1. I bet that squirrel is still nervous!

    I’ve seen hawks go into bushes to flush out birds; I’ve seen them fly around tree trunks looking for a scrambling squirrel until they get tired and sit on a fence while the squirrel flattens out against the tree. I always wonder if the hawk is really hungry, or just trying different strategies…or maybe they are not very good at hunting yet!

    • W.S…Yes, the squirrel took a bit of time to move from its hiding spot…and I thought the same thing…he must still be shaken…I think he learned something from that, as the hawk probably did…the hunted and the hunter…they would do better next time…just seconds between life and a quick meal…thanks…Jim E


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